Victor Bakhtin landscape painting–almost as good as being there.

April 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

Outside the Whooping Crane exhibit here at ICF there is a beautiful landscape mural painted by Victor Bakhtin, the same artist who painted the Platte River mural inside our visitor’s center.

The landscape is located just south of Baraboo, Wisconsin, not too far from the International Crane Foundation.  Victor Bakhtin painted it in 1994, but when does it take place? Here are some clues.

This looks like a tree full of Passenger Pigeons, but my boss says there are also Mourning Doves in there. Here is a website with ID information: http://www.si.edu/encyclopedia_si/nmnh/passpig.htm Anyone care to comment?

This looks like a tree full of Passenger Pigeons, but my boss says there are also Mourning Doves in there. Here is a website with ID information: http://www.si.edu/encyclopedia_si/nmnh/passpig.htm Anyone care to comment?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the last two bison east of the Mississippi River were shot in 1832. This scene probably took place at least a century before then. At that time herds of bison roamed the great prairies surrounding Baraboo, and Passenger Pigeons were so plentiful that they could blacken the sky for hours as they migrated in search of acorn masts. Today’s bison herds are a mere shadow of their former greatness, and the Passenger Pigeon is a ghost. As it approached extinction, a few brave conservationists began to call for measures of protection, or for at least some limit to Passenger Pigeon hunting. Their pleas would go unanswered.

In 1857, the Ohio legislature infamously stated: “The Passenger Pigeon needs no protection. Wonderfully prolific, having the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed from the myriads that are yearly produced.”

By 1900 the last wild Passenger Pigeon in North America was shot by a farm boy in Ohio. In 1914 the last Passenger Pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was named Martha, after Martha Washington.

I like to use this mural while giving my talks to discuss the idea of extinction. It shows what our landscape used to look like, and foreshadows the fate of many species on the brink of extinction. The mural is filled with other species that have tenuous futures. At ICF we strive to conserve land and resources not only for cranes, but for other species that share their landscapes. And for us, because a world without biodiversity wouldn’t be worth living in.

Here are some more hidden gems from the mural. Don’t worry, there are still more for you to discover on your own.

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Entry filed under: Conservation. Tags: , , , .

Counting Cranes and Booming Cocks

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